State and Federal Roles

The Kansas Constitution makes public education a state responsibility while at the same time providing for the operation of public schools by local school boards elected by citizens of the school district. Each board consists of seven members. The only exception is Fort Leavenworth USD 207. As a military base school system, the district serves only kindergarten through ninth grade students, and the governing board is composed of three residents of the base appointed by the commanding officer of Fort Leavenworth.

Close to 2,000 men and women guide Kansas public schools systems, employing more than 70,000 Kansans and serving nearly 500,000 children. Board members receive no pay for their service, only the satisfaction that comes from providing an indispensable public service!

The mission of the public school is to educate each child to their fullest potential. The local school board, an integral part of the American institution of representative government, acts on behalf of the people of each community to translate that education mission into reality.

2017 Board Elections

In 2015, the Kansas Legislature passed HB 2104, changing local election dates, including the dates for local school board elections. Previously school board general elections were held in the spring of odd-numbered years. The new law requires these elections to be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of odd-numbered years. If necessary, primary elections will be held on the first Tuesday in August of odd numbered years. That means 2017 is an election year for local boards of education in Kansas!

KASB encourages current board members to seek another term. Your experience makes you an invaluable asset to your community. KASB also encourages other committed, visionary community members to seek election and serve in this important voluntary role in your community!

Filing and Election Dates

Filing Deadline – Thursday, June 1, 2017
Primary election – Tuesday, August 1, 2017
General election – Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Terms of Office

Term expiration dates for school board members scheduled to expire in 2017 under the old plan will now expire on the second Monday in January of 2018.

Newly-elected school board members will take office on the second Monday in January following the election.

Current Board Member?

If you are a current board of education member, click the image below to see your election cycle.

What are the Roles and Responsibilities
of a Local School Board Member?

Vision

Setting a vision is not just another way of saying “goal setting” or “long-range planning.” The word comes from the Latin videre, which means “to see,” and a vision for a school district should, in fact, give people another way to see their schools, clearly showing the district not only as it is, but also what it might become.

As a school board member, you will have a central role in defining your district’s vision, but yours should not be the only viewpoint considered. Teachers, administrators, community members and students are more likely to support the board’s vision if they feel they have played a part in developing it.

The process of creating a vision involves making choices, not only about where the district is headed, but also about how it will get there. For this reason, establishing a vision may be the most difficult responsibility any school board faces. But it is also perhaps the most important.

Specific responsibilities for school board members include:

  • Keeping students as the focus of the work of schools;
  • Adopting a shared vision based on community beliefs to guide local education; and
  • Demonstrating a strong commitment to the shared vision and mission by using them to guide decision-making and communicating them to others.

Hiring the Superintendent of Schools

Because the day-to-day operation of the district is the superintendent’s responsibility, selecting and retaining the right superintendent of schools for the district is a critical board decision. Hiring the right superintendent can mean having a school system in which children learn, administrators and teachers work together harmoniously and parents are satisfied and supportive.

Perhaps no single decision a board makes has more impact than the selection of the superintendent.

Organization

The board must also put in place an organizational framework that can allow the district to achieve its vision. School boards are responsible for providing a planning, policy and management structure that reflects local expectations and circumstances. This begins by employing a superintendent, adopting missions and goals in harmony with its vision through a strategic planning process, developing and approving policies, formulating budgets and setting high instructional standards for students and staff.

The board must create an environment in the school system that encourages innovation and supports staff members in a process of continuous improvement of education.

Specific responsibilities for school board members include:

  • Employing a superintendent and establishing a district management system that enables all people to contribute meaningfully to achieve the district’s vision;
  • Establishing direct processes to use information and make effective decisions;
  • Ensuring short- and long-term plans are developed and annually revised through a process involving extensive participation, information gathering, research and reflection;
  • Supporting student learning and school renewal when reviewing and adopting policies and allocating resources that support student learning;
  • Setting high instructional standards based on the best available information about the knowledge and skills students will need in the future; and
  • Encouraging an environment conducive to innovative approaches to teaching and learning and supportive of continuous improvement in education.

Policy

While it has been said the board makes policy and the superintendent administers it, the exact line between policy and administration is a fine one. Typically, a superintendent recommends a particular policy to the board, and the board considers it. They then accept, modify or reject the recommendation. Once a policy is adopted by the board, the superintendent is responsible for implementing the policy.

The board and individual board members should refrain from becoming involved in the day-to-day operation of the schools. Kansas law states the superintendent manages the district on a day to day basis, subject to the rules and regulations set by the board of education.

Local Governance Structure

With the exception of Fort Leavenworth USD 207, all Kansas school boards consist of seven elected members, and all unified school districts are responsible for the education of children in grades kindergarten through 12. Increasing numbers of school districts are involved in early childhood and adult education programs as well. Many school districts are also members of interlocal cooperatives or service centers. These cooperatives, whose governing bodies consist of local board members from participating school districts, provide services ranging from group purchasing to special education.

The Fort Leavenworth schools operate with two major differences compared to other Kansas districts. The district only serves grades K-9, and the board is composed of three residents of the base appointed by the commanding officer of Fort Leavenworth.

Accountability

The genius of America’s education system is that local boards are directly accountable to the communities they serve.

Effective boards engage in continuous assessment of all conditions affecting education.

These should include:

  • Monitoring student achievement;
  • Using student achievement data and all other available information as a basis for making program corrections and modifications as needed;
  • Keeping the public informed on the status of the district’s programs and students’ progress;
  • Ensuring all functions of schools as institutions of teaching and learning fit together harmoniously;
  • Providing appropriate staff and board training opportunities;
  • Encouraging curricular and assessment innovation; and
  • Fulfilling governance responsibilities as required by state and federal law.

A comprehensive accountability system can improve the effectiveness of schools by keeping the primary focus on student achievement and on what can and should be done to improve that achievement.

Specific responsibilities for school boards include:

  • Receiving regular reports on student progress and needs based on a variety of assessments in order to evaluate the quality and equity of education in the district;
  • Evaluating both superintendent and board performance;
  • Evaluating progress toward the achievement of district long- and short-term goals and ensuring policies and allocation of resources effectively support the district vision; and
  • Reporting district progress to the community and parents on a regular basis.

Student Achievement

Our public schools are about preparing students for the future. Our students must be prepared to compete on a global economic field and this means we must continue to improve student achievement. Boards of education need to work within the framework of a continuous improvement model to make sure our schools are preparing every student to succeed. Goal setting is an important part of that process.

Boards must work with administrators, teachers and the community to set district goals. Board decisions should logically follow from board goals and objectives. The board should also establish procedures to annually evaluate the progress of the district.

The Kansas State Department of Education monitors and accredits schools in Kansas using Kansas Education System Accreditation (KESA).

Advocacy

School boards serve as the leading advocate on behalf of students and their schools in the community. Both individually and collectively, school board members need to remain informed of issues at the local, state and national levels. In a time when children come to school with more challenges than ever before, schools acknowledge they cannot meet all these needs alone. Instead, they collaborate with families, community organizations and other public and private agencies to benefit both the children and the community they serve.

As a result, the advocacy role is increasingly important for school board members. Informing citizens about the schools’ accomplishments, challenges and needs is an essential part of school board leadership. Through their actions, board members represent the community and help foster understanding and support for the schools.
Specific responsibilities for school boards include:

  • Seeking others who can help expand educational opportunities to meet the needs of the whole child;
  • Advocating for children and families and establishing strong relationships with parents and other mentors to help support students;
  • Promoting the schools’ instructional and other programs;
  • Leading in celebrating the achievements of students and others in education; and
  • Promoting school board service as a meaningful way to make long-term contributions to society.

These responsibilities mean school boards cannot work in isolation. They must bring together the entire community (parents, community groups and others concerned about education) in effective and responsible ways to initiate and sustain lasting school improvement.

Campaign and Election Laws

Filing for Office

There are two ways to file as a candidate for election. The first is to file a declaration of intention to become a candidate and to pay a $20 filing fee to the county election officer of the county in which the district is located. A person may also become a candidate by filing a petition with the county election officer. The petition must contain signatures of 50 registered voters residing in the member district or geographic area from which the board member is to be elected or (with the exception of individuals running for at-large positions) 10 percent of such electors, whichever is less.  No candidate may withdraw their candidacy after the filing deadline.

The filing deadline for the November 2017 election is June 1, 2017.

Local Voting Plans

The voting plan to elect members varies among school districts. In some districts, all board members are elected at-large by the citizens of the district. In other school districts, some members are elected from certain areas of the district, and other board members are elected at-large. Contact your local county election office or school district superintendent if you need further information about the voting plan in your district.

Method of Elections/Voting Plans Changes in the local method of election and/or voting plan may be made between the first Wednesday in November of an even-numbered year (i.e. Wednesday November 2, 2016) and ending the first Tuesday in June of odd-numbered year (i.e. June 6, 2017), if the change is also approved in an election before the end of the period.

Changes to the Election Cycle

Boards must pass a resolution stating that the terms of board members that would expire at any time in 2017 will now expire on the second Monday in January of 2018.

There is no definitive date on when the resolutions should be passed, although it is advised that it is passed prior to the expiration of the board members’ original terms (June 30, 2017). Boards can also pass it much sooner if they desire. A sample resolution can be found here.

Campaign Finance

Most candidates for school board generally do not spend large amounts of money or accept large contributions. However, they have responsibilities under Kansas campaign finance laws.
If a candidate intends to spend a total amount or value of less than $1,000 in either the primary or general election, he or she must file an affidavit stating that intent with the county election officer of their home county, usually the county clerk. That affidavit also notes he or she intends to receive contributions of an amount or value of less than $1,000. The affidavit must be filed no later than nine days prior to the primary election.

If he or she has signed such an affidavit and incurs expenses, exclusive of their filing fee, in excess of $1,000 or receives contributions in excess of $1,000 for either the primary or the general election, the candidate must file a more detailed report.

This report must be filed with the county election officer within 30 days after the primary and general election. It includes an itemized statement of all expenditures the candidate made or obligations contracted or incurred in connection with the primary and general election.

The report also needs to include the name and address of each person who contributed more than $50 with the amount and date of the contribution. These obligations also apply to a person who is working on behalf of a candidate. Please note candidates for Wichita USD 259 have unique standards and a different timeline for filing reports as described in K.S.A. 25-4148.

Governmental Ethics 

Candidates also have to file a statement of substantial interest. It must be filed within 10 days of the filing deadline and is filed where the declaration of candidacy was filed. The statement details business holdings that may cause a successful candidate to be required to declare a conflict of interest on a board motion.

Oath of Office

Winning candidates need to have on file with the county election officer the oath of office within 10 days of the election or not later than five days after the issuance of the certificate of election, whichever is later.

What is the role of the state?
The federal government?

The State’s Role

Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution gives the State Legislature responsibility to “make suitable provision for finance” of public education, which means the state has the primary role in school funding. The Legislature determines what ability local boards have to raise local revenues. The Legislature also may enact laws concerning local boards and districts in their role as local governments and employers, including requirements for programs and services and the rights of students, employees and citizens.

Under the Kansas Constitution, the Kansas State Board of Education has the power of “general supervision” over school districts and approves most of the regulations that govern the day-to-day operation of school programs. Few people know or work closely with their elected representative on the state board. Being an effective advocate for your school requires interaction with your state board member.

The State Board of Education monitors the progress of schools towards the state level vision and definition of a successful high school through the accreditation process, KESA (Kansas Educations Systems Accreditation).

The combination of a clear vision for the state’s schools, definition of a successful high school graduate, and the accreditation process provide local school boards with minimum standards to strive for as they govern their school district.

The Federal Role

At the federal level, Congress reauthorized the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2015 and renamed it ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). This legislation traces its origins to 1965 as part of the larger civil rights movement. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was the previous reauthorization of ESEA adopted in 2001.

The original intent of ESEA in 1965 was to increase educational opportunities for all students. The focus was to provide federal assistance to school districts serving low-income students, assistance for the education of students with disabilities, and provide resources for state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education. The spirit of the original act is still present in the most recent reauthorization of this legislation.

The federal focus includes the following areas:

  • Continue efforts to provide equitable educational opportunities for disadvantaged and disabled students.
  • Raise academic standards to better prepare students for college and careers.
  • Improve communication and access to information for educators, families, students and communities related to progress in achieving the higher academic standards.
  • Increase access to preschool programming.
  • Support and grow innovation by educational leaders.
  • Accountability and focused improvement support for chronically underperforming schools.

The federal influence on local school board is often reflected in policies and procedures developed locally in response to accountability connected federal resources. These federal funds flow through the state department of education.

In 2015, the Kansas State Board of Education adopted a bold new vision for Kansas schools: “Kansas Lead the World in the Success of Each Student.”  This initiative is referred to as “Kansans CAN.”

As part of this vision, the state board defined for Kansas schools the skills and abilities a successful high school graduate should possess:

“A successful Kansas high school graduate has the academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability skills and civic engagement to be successful in postsecondary education, in the attainment of an industry recognized certification or in the workforce, without the need for remediation.”

Your Local District

One of the very best ways to learn more is to contact your local school district and schedule a meeting with the superintendent of schools! These local leaders are the experts on your schools and community and can help guide you in exploring this opportunity to determine if it is right for you!

KASB Website and Publications

You will also find it helpful to start monitoring KASB’s public communications, including our daily News Briefs, weekly KASB Solutions and the monthly Clerks News. These are all available online HERE.

You can also access the Association’s monthly news magazine, the School Board Review HERE.

Helpful Links

Kansas Secretary of State (Election Information/Filing Forms) http://www.kssos.org/main.html

National School Board Association https://www.nsba.org

Am I qualified to serve
on my local board of education?

Every school district in Kansas is governed by a locally-elected board of education. In fact, school board members as a whole comprise the largest body of elected officials in our country. The qualifications for effective service as a board member are many, even though the actual legal requirements are few!

School board members must be registered voters in the school district and cannot be an employee of the board on which they are a member. If board members are elected from certain areas of the district rather than at-large, they must live in the area of the district from which they are seeking office. School board members serve staggered four-year terms, so the entire board is not up for election at the same time.

School board elections are held the first Tuesday in November of each odd-numbered year. A primary election must be conducted if more than three people file for the same school board position. Newly elected board members take office the second Monday in January following the election.

The key to success!

To accomplish the mission and goals of the school district, it is very important for you to work as a team member and cooperate with other board members. Decision-making authority is vested in the board of education, not in individual members.

The locally-elected school board is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining, developing and operating local schools. School board members make important decisions with long-lasting implications for their community and its citizens. They establish a vision for the public education system in their community, are responsible for hiring and evaluating the superintendent of schools, adopt policies and monitor district finances, among other responsibilities.

A board member should:

  • Have a broad background of experience and knowledge and a sincere desire to serve the community;
  • Be visionary, able to understand the forces of societal change and plan for the future;
  • Be tolerant and without prejudice, respecting diverse points of view;
  • Understand education today is complex and simplistic approaches will not meet today’s challenges;
  • Be willing to invest the time and energy required for meetings, phone calls, conversations, visits to schools, professional development seminars and workshops;
  • Be responsive to human needs of individuals and groups;
  • Be willing to be part of a team, supporting group decisions;
  • Listen for real consensus and not confuse a few vocal constituents with a majority feeling;
  • Remember the responsibility is to all the children in the state, not solely to those in the local district; and
  • Learn and grow as you become more aware of your responsibilities.

What training is available?

KASB provides training for all new board members, introducing them to the important work of governing and guiding their district as it prepares students for success.

KASB Leadership, Advocacy and Legal staff facilitate these highly-interactive workshops. Participants discover answers to common questions, such as the authority of a board of education, the role of policy and what it takes to govern a school system to support student success. The training will help you begin your journey by giving you an basic understanding of budget and finance, school law (including open meetings and executive session requirements), boardsmanship basics, communication and advocacy.

Each new board member receives a copy of KASB’s “Guide to Boardsmanship in Kansas.” This comprehensive manual covers all areas of school governance-the nuts and bolts of how to operate as a governing board and the roles and responsibilities of the board, superintendent and staff.

While officially titled “new board member workshops,” the content of this training is a great review for veteran board members as well. The best way to participate is to make sure at least one veteran board member/mentor and the superintendent attend the workshop with the new board members.

Dates and locations will be announced in June 2017.

NSBA Resources

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is an excellent source of information for board members in all phases of their service, from newly elected to well-seasoned!

KASB’s whole board training program uses NSBA’s The Key Work of School Boards as one of many training resources available. The focus is to improve student achievement by leveraging every available resource, including increasing connections with the community.

Who – or What – is KASB?

KASB is a not-for-profit organization located in Topeka, Kansas and dedicated to serving members of governing boards for unified school districts, community colleges, area vocational-technical schools and cooperatives, interlocals and regional service centers.

One of the best ways to learn more about the Association is to spend some time on our website. Click around! the link below will give you a quick overview of who we are and how we serve Kansas Public Schools!